Maharashtra political crisis | Mumbai

MVA wobbles as Sena Minister, MLAs camp in Surat

Police personnel stand guard as Maharashtra’s MPs and MLAs conduct a meeting, outside Le Meridien hotel in Surat on June 21, 2022.

Police personnel stand guard as Maharashtra’s MPs and MLAs conduct a meeting, outside Le Meridien hotel in Surat on June 21, 2022. | Photo Credit: PTI

Two-and-a-half years after it survived the rebellion by Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Ajit Pawar, the tripartite Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government in Maharashtra is staring at an identical crisis. Senior Minister and Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde has rebelled against Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, demanding the party snap ties with the MVA and re-join hands with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). 

Hours after the BJP trumped the MVA in the Maharashtra Legislative Council polls on Monday night, Mr. Shinde, the State’s Urban Development Minister and the Shiv Sena’s legislative party leader, left Mumbai along with a group of MLAs for Surat in Gujarat. The Sena, in a swift move, removed him from his post as the legislative party leader and appointed Ajay Chaudhari, an MLA from Mumbai’s Sewri area, to the position.

Mr. Shinde, with whom Shiv Sena leaders Milind Narvekar and Ravindra Phatak held a meeting at a hotel in Surat, reportedly asked the Sena leadership to re-join hands with the BJP. Mr. Thackeray held a telephonic conversation with Mr. Shinde during that meeting. According to sources within the Sena, the rebel Minister asked Mr. Thackeray to not continue with the MVA and instead form the government with the BJP.

Leaders of two other constituents of the MVA, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress, held a meeting with Mr. Thackeray on Tuesday evening. Both the parties have chosen to adopt a “wait and watch” strategy, clarifying that Mr. Shinde’s move was an internal matter of the Shiv Sena. NCP chief Sharad Pawar, addressing a press conference in Delhi, said that such attempts to dethrone the MVA had been made in the past. “This is the Sena’s internal matter. We are together as MVA,” Mr. Pawar said, adding that cross-voting in the Council poll did not endanger the government.

The Congress, which too witnessed cross-voting in the Council polls, has decided to bring all its 44 MLAs to Mumbai. The party has sent senior leader Kamal Nath to Mumbai as an observer in the wake of Mr. Shinde’s rebellion. Party in-charge from the All India Congress Committee, H. K. Patil, said that the State government will not face any danger. Refuting claims that Congress MLAs too were unreachable, the Maharashtra Congress said that all the party’s MLAs had been contacted.

Mr. Shinde, along with Shiv Sena MLAs in his group, reached Surat late on Monday night. The Shinde camp has been claiming that it has a support of 34 MLAs. Refuting this, Sena sources claimed that the meeting called by Mr. Thackeray at his official residence ‘Varsha’ to counter the rebellion had witnessed the attendance of 34 MLAs.

After landing in Surat and maintaining silence, Mr. Shinde tweeted on Tuesday afternoon, remembering the late Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray, and his [Mr. Shinde’s] mentor, the late Anand Dighe. “We are staunch Shiv Sainiks of Balasaheb. Balasaheb taught us Hindutva. We will never betray Balasaheb’s thoughts and Dharmaveer Anand Dighe’s teachings for the sake of power,” Mr. Shinde tweeted, hinting his slant towards the BJP.

Mr. Shinde’s move has placed the MVA government’s stability under the scanner. The BJP, with its performance in the Council polls, had demonstrated it has the support of 134 MLAs. The majority mark in the Maharashtra Assembly is 145. 

Sena leader Sanjay Raut said ‘Operation Lotus’ would not be successful in Maharashtra as it had been in Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka. “All our MLAs will return. They have stayed with the party in bad times. They will stay with us even now. Some of them were threatened [in order] to go there. We are confident that they will return,” Mr. Raut said.

MLAs shifted to Guwahati

More than 15 legislators from Maharashtra who checked in in a posh hotel in Surat on Monday late night are now reportedly being shifted to Guwahati in Assam.

According to sources, the legislators are being taken to Guwahati in a chartered jet from Surat. A BJP legislator who is reportedly camping there at the hotel along with Shiv Sena rebel MLAs would escort them to the BJP ruled Assam.

“From the hotel, MLAs are being taken to the airport in a special bus and from there to Guwahati in a chartered jet,” a source from Surat told The Hindu.

The reason to shift the legislators is to ensure that they remain confined. According to sources, a couple MLAs had reportedly tried to fled from Surat hotel but the Policemen deployed in the hotel surrounding did not allow them to leave the premises.

(With inputs from Mahesh Langa)

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Printable version | Aug 4, 2022 3:26:14 pm |